Environmental historian Dr Jonathan West is embarking on a major study of the country’s lakes as the Victoria University of Wellington Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies JD Stout Fellow for 2019.
Dr West has been a senior historian in the public service for ten years, most recently leading the team of historians at the Office for Māori Crown Relations–Te Arawhiti. He brings to the Stout Research Centre several years of research and writing on the environmental history of New Zealand, including Wild Heart: The Possibility of Wilderness in Aotearoa New Zealand; The Lives of Colonial Objects; New Zealand and the Sea; and most notably his book The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula, which was shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Illustrated Non-Fiction in 2018.
As the 2019 JD Stout Fellow Dr West will work on a new project, ‘Mirrors on the Land: An Environmental History of New Zealand’s Lakes’, which will examine how Māori and Pakeha New Zealanders have lived with lakes, and how that relationship has shaped their histories.
His research will take the form of a series of case studies of some of the country’s major lakes, and will incorporate iwi relationships with lakes, the struggle between the colonial state and iwi for ownership of lakes, acclimatisation of fish, tourism, the drive for hydropower, and pollution through urban and rural land use.
“I want to emphasise the importance of the humanities in investigations of the natural environment,” says Dr West. “The significance of freshwater to our culture and politics has never been more obvious, and I hope this study contributes to a better understanding of how we have arrived at this point in our history.”
Director of the Stout Research Centre Associate Professor Kate Hunter says, “The JD Stout Fellowship, supported generously by the Stout Family Trust, will enable Dr West to step out of his senior role at Māori Crown Relations–Te Arawhiti to pursue his next research project on New Zealand’s lakes.
“Dr West’s elegant history of the Otago Peninsula—The Face of Nature—and his wealth of knowledge and connections, signal how exciting this new project will be. We are looking forward to Dr West being a central part of our community this year.”
Dr West took up his appointment at the Stout Research Centre on 1 March 2019.
For more information contact Kate Hunter, Director, Stout Research Centre on 04-4636434 or Kate.Hunter@vuw.ac.nz
- Victoria University of Welllington